A dog becomes a hero to trapped coal miners in this third book of Hart's Dog Chronicles series (Mercy, Gold Rush Dog, 2014, etc.).
Young Finder, a mountain cur pup, has a wonderful nose for tracking but proves too gun-shy to be a hunting dog. Times are hard on the Illinois prairies in 1909; Finder's family, Uncle, Aunt, and 14-year-old Thomas, struggle under debt despite Uncle's job at the Cherry Coal Mine, and the family can't afford to feed nonworking members. Thomas has no choice but to fake his age and take a job deep in the mines as a digger, shoveling loosened coal into carts. Finder goes with him—Thomas has trained him to haul a small cart, and Finder can reach places the mine's mules can't. When fire breaks out, Finder not only leads Thomas to safety, but goes back to rescue several miners. Told from Finder's point of view, the story moves energetically with much of the exposition necessarily told in dialogue that the dog fully comprehends. Many miners die in the disaster—a real event in history, though Finder and his family are fictional—but Hart steers clear of graphic details to keep the story age-appropriate. Brief but interesting backmatter explains that, despite some legal restrictions, child workers were common in mines at this time. Animals, including goats, dogs, ponies, and mules, also often worked below, and tracking dogs sometimes work in mines today.
Well-told and entertaining, a solid dog story. (Historical fiction. 8-12)